Get a Load of the River

32 states of local emergency were declared over
solstice 2013 when unprecedented rainfall flooded
the Bow River, the Elbow River, the Highwood River


the Red Deer River, the Sheep River, the Little Bow
and South Saskatchewan Rivers plus tributaries
galore. After a couple days Calgary waterway


flows swole by factors up to 10.    5 people died
in what the Insurance Bureau of Canada called
the costliest disaster in Canadian history


til the fire at Fort Mac. We’ll want bigger buckets
next bailout, the Flames need a new arena


and 8 rows of seats were submerged that means
hockey players walking through the tunnel would
be underwater. Saddledome’s not built for that


but memorabilia was rescued before Event Level
drowned, an old captain’s signed contract saved
for posterity. Evacuation orders mean immediate


threat to life, failure to comply criminal
for some. We have the biggest water pumps
in North America on standby, waiting for the water


to recede. Just a little recession and we’ll drop
‘em like pucks. That way fans will pay for it.


The author of Vulgar Mechanics (Coach House), K. B. Thors is from Treaty 7 land in rural Alberta.

Questions and Answers

1. What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

Floods and earthquakes in places where they didn’t used to happen! I’ve witnessed changes in the Red Deer River in particular, and this poem reflects my frustration with our priorities as we experience distress on the land together. Capitalism over ecology, hockey as imperial bread and circus, a cynical mood about sports.

2. What poetic techniques did you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?

While I didn’t zero in on metre, I did want this poem to have a “serious” sort of traditional structure to go with casual tones.

3. How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?

It’s often just a word or two that gets me writing. The line about hockey players in the tunnel being underwater is from a CBC article, as is the captain’s contract memorabilia detail. I’ve thought of that flood many times since it happened, so when I wrote about it the logic had some flow. I revisited news pieces and fact checked, building a form around a couple line breaks I really wanted.

4. What did you find particularly challenging in writing this poem?

An ongoing challenge for me is resisting the urge to go for everything at once. A neurodivergent tendency, but also basic editing. A previous draft had lines about how the Saddledome is no Coliseum. Coliseums have an amazing history of design that allowed buildings to be flooded for nautical games and alluding to that got the Oilers and Edmonton-Calgary rivalry in there. But it felt forced to include that, distracting from other points. I might come back to that or respond to it in another poem.

This poem “Get a Load of the River” originally appeared in Poetics and Extraction Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 251 (2022): 124.

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